Thursday, December 14, 2017
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Exoskeleton to Help Astronauts with Muscle and Bone Density Loss

This exoskeleton suit uses motors to act as a force against an astronaut, so they can exercise much as the would on earth and avoid bone density and muscle loss. Photo courtesy of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.
This exoskeleton suit uses motors to act as a force against an astronaut, so they can exercise much as the would on earth and avoid bone density and muscle loss. Photo courtesy of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition has developed a novel exoskeleton designed to stop muscle and bone density loss caused by long stays in a zero gravity environment. Known as the Grasshopper, the suit would be worn by astronauts while they exercise in space. It’s worn much like a hiking backpack — over the shoulders and around the waist. But it also includes foot plates with straps that go over the user’s shoes.

The suit users motors to act as an oppositional force, in place of the gravity the user would feel while exercising on earth. An actuator at each knee tries to keep the suit folded up, while the user essential performs squats — pushing against the compressive load of the suit. Software determines how much force is applied. So the suit can simple simulate gravity or add an additional force, to simulate squatting while holding weights on earth.

The suit was developed with a grant from NASA.

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